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The Trouble with FAFSA – Possible Waitlists Ahead

The Trouble with FAFSA – Possible Waitlists Ahead

Many of you have no doubt heard about the recent troubles with the Department of Education’s rollout of the new FAFSA this year. If your family is applying for financial aid this year, then you have likely already felt some of these impacts. 

But even if your family is in the fortunate position of not needing to apply for aid, this situation may affect you.

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Passionate curiosity may be the key

Passionate curiosity may be the key

What struck me most in these conversations, though, was the passionate curiosity, as Einstein described it, that these young people—by any measure some of the highest achievers in their respective fields in the world—could bring to almost any subject. Whether the conversation was about democracy or economic policy or historical injustice, and regardless of their field, they could ask thoughtful questions. I realized that what set them apart, and probably did even when they first applied to college, was a driving desire to know—what Stanford, in an earlier iteration of its application, called “intellectual vitality.”

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To SAT? Or, to ACT? How do you pick?

To SAT? Or, to ACT? How do you pick?

The stress around standardized testing has not gone away despite the shifts that many schools have made toward test optional admissions. In fact, for some students, the stress around standardized testing seems to have only increased as they consider how to maximize their scores to submit to schools that are test optional (particularly when those schools seem to have a preference for students to submit high test scores). Today, let’s talk about the SAT and the ACT, how they are alike, how they diverge, and how you might be able to choose which test to take without going through the onerous challenge of sitting for both.

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It Always Works Out…..

It Always Works Out…..

Unfortunately, the reality of college admissions is that often these visions (this is the “dream school”; this is the “most perfect major”) do not play themselves out in the process. In the face of some schools receiving more than double the number of applications they received only a few years ago, it is more and more difficult to latch a set of hopes and dreams onto a single school..

But I truly believe that’s exactly as it should be. There should never be just one dream school, or one perfect program. The world is full of infinite paths and options – things students have never imagined or even conceived. Instead of seeing only a single path through the process, I challenge students to see themselves on the green line, and to begin to imagine the vast number of possibilities that lie in front of them.

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Recommendation Letters and the College Application

Recommendation Letters and the College Application

As stressful as it is to write college application essays, at least the effort gives students a sense of control, of making a case for themselves by discussing what matters to them and what they believe makes them distinctive and wonderful. In contrast, letters of recommendation are written by teachers about students, who are expected to waive access to them.

By being proactive and thoughtful, though, students can still have significant input in these important pieces of the application. And they are indeed important. In the 2019 NACAC State of Admission report, most deans of admission put teacher recommendations in the same category of importance as application essays. But the number of required letters, and the guidance as to who should write them, will vary by college. Selective colleges will want to see one or two teacher letters in addition to the counselor letter, and they will usually ask that the letters come from junior or senior year teachers in core academic subjects (English, social science, math, science, and foreign language).

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AI and the Essay

AI and the Essay

It is now rare to open a newspaper or listen to a news program without some mention of AI. These discussions often have a slightly apocalyptic tone – the Terminators’ SkyNet lives! In essence, AI confronts us with a real transformation of the way we do things.  And that is both hugely exciting, and scary.

Educators, too, are grappling with the implications of AI, particularly the way that ChatGPT (and alternatives such as Bard) upends assumptions about how we work. Evaluating students’ learning by asking them to write essays and exams, staples of secondary and tertiary education, now might become outdated. Asking students about the use of ChatGPT in their schools, most have told me they know others who use it for everything from basic information gathering to full-on essay writing. No one has acknowledged doing the latter themselves, and I think this reflects that students are as much at sea about this as their teachers.

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A tale of three college visits – which one fits you now?

A tale of three college visits – which one fits you now?

…soon, spring will arrive, and high school students and their families will start thinking about embarking on some college visits and campus tours. Your interest may have been piqued by hearing about admission decisions from the older students; you may notice flyers for college fairs posted at school; and you’ll probably be considering or even prepping for standardized tests. But springtime also brings the opportunity for college visits, in three different ways, at three different stages of your higher education journey…

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Choosing Your Courses for the Next Year

Choosing Your Courses for the Next Year

Soon, many sophomore and junior students must make choices about their courses for next year. We know the admission process at very selective colleges is based, above all, on your academic performance, and if your grades are not what the college wants to see, your chances of admission will be limited. But how do your curricular choices play out in that process?

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The 2022 admission season: what juniors might learn from it

The 2022 admission season: what juniors might learn from it

With colleges having announced their 2022 admission decisions, I yet again feel like a recording stuck in a loop as I reiterate to my students that admission at the more selective colleges has become even more challenging. Even so, this year does feel different to me somehow. Perhaps it is the fact that I have seen more amazingly accomplished students who did not get into their dream schools – or indeed even into the ones they deemed target schools – than ever before, that makes the college admission process feel increasingly untenable.

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A career in software computing? Consider a major other than CS

A career in software computing? Consider a major other than CS

No wonder many prospective first years are fearful about their chances of admission to a top CS program! But it’s not all bad news. As someone who’s done this myself and knows many others like me, I am here to tell you that majoring in computer science is not the only way to get into software engineering (or other top jobs in tech). And, in my opinion, it’s not even the best way.

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No, it’s not fair!

No, it’s not fair!

Every year commentators call on new superlatives to describe the plummeting admit rates at selective colleges. Beset by a growing sense of anxiety about their chances of admission to increasingly rejective colleges, students cast around for explanations in a process that feels increasingly out of their control. “It is not fair,” they say.

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Waiting on the Waitlist

Waiting on the Waitlist

With college admission decisions made and released, the attention of students and admission officers turns to the tricky challenge of the waitlist. And rarely has the process seemed more chaotic than this year, in which many selective colleges faced higher application numbers, lower admit rates, and greater uncertainty about their yield.

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